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Ever-changing Celtics struggle to find continuity

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff  February 1, 2014 03:36 PM

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WALTHAM – Rajon Rondo was sidelined for half the season, now he’s back.

Jordan Crawford, MarShon Brooks, Courtney Lee, Keith Bogans and Vander Blue were all here, now they’re all gone.

Jerryd Bayless, Joel Anthony and Chris Johnson were all elsewhere, now all three are Celtics.

Add in the fact that Kelly Olynyk, Kris Humphries, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger have all missed at least one game for one reason or another, such as an injury, and what you have is a Celtics roster that has had almost no continuity at all this season.

And there’s the strong chance that, after the Feb. 21 trade deadline, the team could be even more different, especially with management in full-rebuilding mode, aiming to gather as many precious assets as possible to speed up the transition process.

The Celtics, who host Orlando (13-55) for a Sunday matinee at TD Garden, are in a state of flux; there’s no doubt about that. But amid all the change, the challenge is simple: get everyone on the same page so that you can put a competitive product on the court.

Of course, the Celtics (15-33) have lost 19 of their last 22 games, so it’s not as though they’ve mastered that difficult process by any means. Still, it has made Brad Stevens’s first year as the head coach even more interesting, beyond just his acclimation to the NBA.

“You feel like you’re in a pretty good rhythm in the beginning of the season because you know who’s there,” Stevens said after practice here Saturday. “And obviously there’s going to be personnel changes, especially in years like this year. So you expect that. You know that. But at the same time, it does present some challenges with finding any continuity on defense or offense.”

For a good example, he pointed to other teams, such as Oklahoma City, which hasn’t missed a beat even with key players such as Russell Westbrook sidelined with an injury. (Though, to be fair, that team has Kevin Durant. Enough said.)

Overall, the point Stevens tried to make is that when a team has a system firmly in place, pieces can be somewhat interchangeable without the level of play fluctuating too much.

Stevens said he does have a grand vision of what the Celtics can be when everything settles down – whenever that might be.

“You know, yeah, I think it’s coming together, but it’s certainly altered with change,” he said. “As I get more used to a Joel Anthony and what he does best, as we get used to Jerryd Bayless and what he does best -- go on down the line.

“We’ve had some guys that did some certain things really well, and those guys do things well too. It’s just different. So we’ve got to continue to piece that and put that together.

“Defensively, I think we’re in a really good spot with what we want to do. Offensively, I think, you’re just trying to figure out your best way to score and I think we’ve become less limited as we’ve become more healthy.”

On that note, the Celtics expect to have Bradley back Sunday after a five-game absence with a sprained right ankle. Humphries should be back after missing practice Friday with what he described as swelling in his knee.

And rookie center Vitor Faverani will also be back after a stint in the NBA Development League with the Maine Red Claws. Faverani had 16 points and 12 rebounds in the Red Claws’ win Friday over the Delaware 76ers. and he’s expected to play Saturday when the Red Claws face the Erie Bayhawks before rejoining the Celtics in time for Sunday’s game.

It’s uncertain if Gerald Wallace will play after having suffered a death in the family.

"Gerald is home [in Alabama], so he’s supposed to fly back tomorrow," Stevens said. "He’s obviously had a tough time, as any of us would. Certainly, first and foremost, I want to make sure he’s OK. I’m a lot less concerned about whether he plays in one game or not."

Lastly, Blue’s 10-day contract expired at midnight Friday, and the Celtics decided not to immediately retain him. While playing with the Maine Red Claws against Delaware, Blue scored 13 points.

The Celtics had signed Blue, an undrafted guard out of Marquette, only to help after their backcourt became decimated to recent injuries to Bradley and Bayless.

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